The Two Lives of Herman Cain

On June 20th, Herman Cain attended Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa. Cain tweeted a photo of himself and others, all not wearing masks, in the VIP section of the rally. On July 2nd it was reported that Cain had been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19. On July 30th Cain’s official website announced he passed away as a result of the virus. That’s the basics of the last month of Herman Cain’s life, a process that has played out over a 150,000 times since March of this year. It is probably impossible to point to exactly where Cain contracted the virus but the timeline of his illness would point to the obvious issue of a high-risk individual attending a high-risk event without precautions.

That’s not what I’m concerned about. I’m fascinated by the alternative lives many celebrities, especially political figures, take on when they try and build their “brand.” Cain had a personal website and a Twitter profile that essentially operated as an RSS feed of his website, at least in recent memory. This is all pretty normal. What’s fascinating in a weird, dystopian science fiction way, is what happened after July 2nd when Cain’s account announced he’d been hospitalized because of the Coronavirus. The account didn’t stop. With a few health updates interspersed throughout, Cain’s Twitter account kept pumping out tweets, some even dealing with COVID-19. One criticized a business owner for attacking Trump on his COVID-19 response because she got paycheck protection money. Another claimed we could be closer to herd immunity than experts want you to believe. A recent one praised MLB for not canceling the season after the Marlins virus outbreak. The rest sort of bounce around to the current viral Republican talking point of the day. My favorite, however, is probably this one in which the machines relieved themselves

So while the real-life Herman Cain spent the last month dealing with the effects of COVID-19, his online persona spent most of the month operating as if little was wrong. One has to assume the writers who produced content for Cain will now be out of jobs as Cain’s estate ends its business, but what if Cain’s account just keeps tweeting the most recent hot button issue for Republicans long after he’s mostly forgotten? This immortality is much more depressing than what we were promised.


Cain’s account has retweeted two posts since the announcement, one by the White House Press Secretary and one by a Fox New Contributor. The latter one is weird in the same sense as Herman Cain’s website in that it’s a remembrance of Cain that quotes the site owner through a secondary writer. But what made me laugh was the photo used in the story.

It’s from Cain’s 2011 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel* while running for the Republican nomination for president, the interview in which he gave this answer in response to Obama’s handling of the protests in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi

That response came weeks before Cain suspended his campaign amid allegations of sexual misconduct towards his employees.